Saturday, October 27, 2007
Luther Listens To the Staples / Slick Radio Discussion
Galatians 3:11 "Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the Law; for the righteous shall live by faith."
Another argument, derived from the testimony of the prophet Habakkuk. It is a very weighty and a clear authority that Paul sets against all the statements about the Law and works. It is as though he were saying: “What need is there of a long debate? Here I am producing a very clear testimony of the prophet, at which no one can carp: ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ If by faith, then not by the Law, because the Law is not by faith.” And Paul interprets the term “faith” in its exclusive and antithetical sense.
The sophists, ready as they are to evade the Scriptures, carp at this passage as follows: “ ‘The righteous shall live by faith,’ that is, by a faith that is active, working, or ‘formed’ by love. But if it is an unformed faith, it does not justify.” They themselves have made up this gloss, and with it they do injury to this passage. If they were to call “formed” faith the true and theological or, as Paul calls it, the νυπόκριτος faith (1 Tim. 1:5), which God calls faith, then this gloss of theirs would not offend me. For then faith would not be distinguished from love; it would be distinguished from a vain idea of faith, as we also distinguish between a counterfeit faith and a true faith. A counterfeit faith is one that hears about God, Christ, and all the mysteries of the incarnation and redemption, one that also grasps what it hears and can speak beautifully about it; and yet only a mere opinion and a vain hearing remain, which leave nothing in the heart but a hollow sound about the Gospel, concerning which there is a great deal of chatter. In fact, this is no faith at all; for it neither renews nor changes the heart. It does not produce a new man, but it leaves him in his former opinion and way of life. This is a very pernicious faith, and it would be better not to have it. A moral philosopher is better than such a hypocrite with such a faith.
If they were to distinguish between a “formed faith” and a false or counterfeit faith, their distinction would not offend me at all. But they speak of faith formed by love; and they posit a double faith, namely, formed and unformed. This noxious and satanic gloss I cannot help detesting violently. “Although infused faith may be present,” they say, “which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, as well as acquired faith, which we ourselves produce by our many acts of believing, nevertheless they are both unformed and must be formed by love.” According to their opinion, faith by itself is like a picture or a beautiful thing in the darkness, which is perceived only when light, that is love, reaches it. And so love is the form of faith, and faith is merely the “matter” of love. In this way they prefer love to faith and attribute righteousness, not to faith but to love. For that by virtue of which something is what it is, is the same thing, only more so. Therefore when they do not attribute righteousness to faith except on account of love, they are attributing nothing at all to faith.
In addition, these subverters of the Gospel say that even infused faith, which has not been received by hearing or produced by any actions but has been created in man by the Holy Spirit, can coexist with mortal sin, and that the most wicked men can have it; and therefore, they say, if it is alone, it is vain and completely useless, even if it should perform miracles. Thus they deprive faith of its task and give this to love, so that faith amounts to nothing at all unless the “form,” namely, love, is added to it. According to this malignant figment of the sophists, faith, that miserable virtue, would be a sort of unformed chaos, without any work, efficacy, or life, a purely passive material. This is blasphemous and satanic; it calls men away from Christian doctrine, from Christ the Mediator, and from the faith that takes hold of Christ. For if love is the form of faith, then I am immediately obliged to say that love is the most important and the largest part in the Christian religion. And thus I lose Christ, His blood, His wounds, and all His blessings; and I cling to love, so that I love, and I come to a moral kind of “doing,” just as the pope, a heathen philosopher, and the Turk do.
But the Holy Spirit knows how to speak and, as the sophists wickedly imagine, could easily have said: “The righteous shall live by a formed faith.” But He purposely omits this and simply says: “The righteous shall live by faith.” Therefore let the sophists go hang with their wicked and malignant gloss! We want to retain and to extol this faith which God has called faith, that is, a true and certain faith that has no doubts about God or the divine promises or the forgiveness of sins through Christ. Then we can remain safe and sure in Christ, the object of faith, and keep before our eyes the suffering and the blood of the Mediator and all His blessings. Faith alone, which takes hold of Christ, is the only means to keep us from permitting this to be removed from our sight. Therefore this malignant gloss must be repudiated, and this passage must be understood of faith alone.
Source: Luther, M. (1999, c1963). Vol. 26: Luther's works, vol. 26 : Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (26:268). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House. pp.268-269